Tiger Woods almost didn’t tee off for the Pro-Am round of The Northern Trust yesterday. Delayed by around half an hour due to inclement weather, it didn’t seem like a good idea for him following a mediocre practice session. After some thought, however, he opted to get some reps in at 7,370-yard, par-71 Liberty National in Jersey City, New Jersey, anyway. No doubt, improved conditions coupled with the warm temperature spurred him to much-needed action. And for a while there, he appeared to do all right — until, that is, his back appeared to act up after a wayward drive.
Woods would wind up playing just half the course and picking his spots to work on his short game the rest of the way. He didn’t even seem to put a lot of effort in what he was doing on the back nine, leading quarters to speculate on his physical state. As things turned out, he was, indeed, suffering from back problems, albeit nothing out of the new normal for him. “Just feeling stiff, being smart about it,” he explained in his presser. “What I did pre-Augusta, where I chipped and putted for nine holes. Same thing.”
Interestingly, Woods contrasted his iffy experience with a much better one the day before. “As I’ve said to you guys all year, this is how it is. Some days, I’m stiffer than others. Yesterday, I was out there hitting it great. Driving it out there with Brooksy [Koepka] and D.J. [Johnson]. Today, I’m stiff. Hopefully, I’m not that way [in the first round].” Simply put, he has no choice but to take things from day to day; despite having drastically cut back on his schedule, he remains uncertain as to how his body will fare on any given outing.
Not surprisingly, Woods isn’t among the favorites to emerge victorious. He isn’t even in bookies’ Top 10. His uneven showing on the course and a dearth of tournament appearances since he won the Masters in April have him at 30-to-one odds. All the same, he’s bent on competing and out to, in his words, “feel that type of tiredness where I have a chance to win. That’s a good feeling.” And should be qualify for the Tour Championship, he’s bent on subjecting himself to a third straight week of golf. “Yes, there is concern,” he disclosed. “But I’m trying to get myself where I’m in contention, where, yeah, it takes a toll.”
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and Human Resources management, corporate communications, and business development.